Cyber Crime Bill: Transforming cyber space into a Tiny Hole

Luavut Zahid took comments from two of the Pak Tea House Editors/Contributors on the proposed Cyber Crime Bill that has been approved by National Assembly’s standing committee for IT and has been sent thereof. We are cross posting the comments given for our readers. Malik Omaid

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The Cybercrime Bill 2015 has been the subject of much controversy with most unsure of whether it is a much needed legislation or a catastrophe in the making.

Yasser Latif Hamdani, a lawyer who has been a core part of the YouTube case, and specialises in cyber laws, internet freedom and public interest litigation, feels that the bill itself is the need of the hour, but fractured in its current form.

“The basic problem with the bill is that it has language which is likely to be misused because it empowers the authority to sit in judgment over whether or not something is Islamic or anti-national,” he said while pointing out Section 34 as the main problem.

“Furthermore the section on sectarian religious and ethnic hatred is so broadly worded that it will be abused by the state authorities to quell dissent and alternative views. It must be linked to direct incitement of violence in my opinion,” he added.

Malik Omaid, Co-Editor Pak Tea House Blog, is no stranger to social commentary online. In fact, much of his work revolves around using social media to touch upon subjects the mainstream media often ignores. Omaid sees a grand transformation coming, if the bill is enacted, and it is not a good one.

“The Bill is going to transform the Pakistani cyber space into what the Pakistani society is like i.e. a place where there are checks on what you speak, what you do and even what is in your mind,” he noted.

“We all have to go through our huge friend lists and see who can be a potential threat. Just like our normal day life we have to take a good look at the size of moustaches and beards around us, and be wary of how high a complete stranger wears their trousers when we are speaking in public,” he added sarcastically.

Omaid sees the online world turning into a tiny hole. “You can rest assured that only religious zealots will be allowed to spread bigotry and the counter argument or debate will die as it has died in our society. There can be no criticism on religion; atheists will hide in the shadows. Ahmadis cannot claim to be Ahmadis even online and will go back to being anonymous – as they are in real life. Christians will not be able to ask for justice for Joseph Colony or Kot Radha Kishan. No one will speak about Balochistan or question any policy adopted by the military establishment. The Shia genocide hash tag will disappear, and yes, the political leaders will also get some benefit out of this since political expression can also be controlled,” he said while painting a picture of what the future holds.

“Of course those who will speak will speak. The Zia era couldn’t stop people like that, and this era will do no better. In a sense Cyber activism will then become real activism”, he said.

Hamdani’s opinion on the matter only confirms Omaid’s fears. In terms of infringing on privacy rights and how the Bill affects the masses, Hamdani clearly outlines the legal precedence it would create for law enforcement agencies to do their dirty work. “As such it creates a legal basis for snooping by law enforcement agencies. The process through intervention of court is still too easy as it leaves it to the apprehension of the official of an agency. So while the official needs a warrant it is easy to obtain it under the proposed law. The room for misuse of the law is rather large,” he explained.

“The law provides what is known as intermediary liability protection a long standing demand of intermediaries like YouTube and Google. This means that a localised version of YouTube will now be possible but it would be heavily censored for content,” Hamdani explained.

“Besides with Section 34 the law has basically legalised censorship and has given the authority to censor in the name of the glory of Islam security and integrity of Pakistan friendly relations with foreign states morality and decency and so forth. In doing so it takes away from the legislative power that NA has in determining these issues under the constitution and gives it to the PTA without impunity,” he told Pakistan Today.

 

You can read full article here, “Cybercrime Bill: a catastrophe in the making?